Tennessee's General Assembly on Thursday coud cast the final vote on HB102, the oft-delayed bill that would allow the distillation of liquor in counties that already allow its sale.
The bill, which is backed by the Chattanooga Whiskey Co., would allow companies to distill whiskey in Chattanooga for the first time since Prohibition.
"This is the final vote that leads to Gov. [Bill] Haslam signing the law into place," wrote company co-founder Joe Ledbetter in a note to supporters. "This whole law thing should be laid to rest, and maybe [co-founder] Tim [Piersant] and I can actually concentrate on running a company."
The bill became a hot-button issue when the founders of the Chattanooga Whiskey Co. discovered that they could not make their product in Chattanooga, because Hamilton County was deliberately excluded from a 2009 law that opened the state up to liquor distillation.
Opponents of the bill including Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, have blasted the measure, which they say goes too far. The bill could allow alcohol to be served on Sundays at the distillary, he charged, and could make it difficult for some communities to opt out if they already allow liquor-by-the-drink and package sales.
"I tell you alcohol kills more people every year than all illegal drugs put together," Floyd, an avid teetotaler, said when the bill was first brought up. "I'd vote twice if I could."